JOHANNESBURG, March 14 (Reuters) – Tropical Cyclone Freddy swept across the coast of southern Africa for a second time this weekend, bringing the total death toll to more than 220 people in Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar.
The month-long storm has broken at least one record and could break two more, meteorologists say.
As climate change causes warmer oceans, heat energy from the surface of the water fuels stronger storms.
Below are some of the main reasons why Freddy is remarkable.
HIGHEST CYCLONE ENERGY
Freddy holds the record for the most accumulated cyclone energy (ACE), a measure based on a storm’s wind force over its lifetime, of any storm in the Southern Hemisphere and possibly worldwide.
According to the World Meteorological Organization, Freddy has generated about as much cyclone energy as an average full North Atlantic hurricane season.
Last week, it ranked second for the most accumulated cyclone energy of any storm since 1980, holding the record held by Hurricane and Typhoon Ioke in 2006.
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Some estimates show that Freddy has since broken that record, with 86 ACE compared to Ioke’s 85 ACE.
According to the World Meteorological Organization, Freddy may have broken the record for the longest-lasting tropical cyclone on record.
The current record is held by a 31-day hurricane in 1994.
Freddy first developed on February 6 and made landfall on the coast of Mozambique for the second time on March 11, 34 days later.
However, experts still need to look at several factors, such as the fact that it has weakened below tropical cyclone status at some points during that time, to determine whether the record has been broken, according to the World Meteorological Organization.
MOST INTENSIFICATION CYCLES
Freddy appears to have broken the world record for most periods of rapid intensification, defined as an increase in wind speed of 35 miles per hour in a 24-hour period.
According to satellite estimates, Freddy had seven separate cycles of rapid intensification, according to the World Meteorological Organization. The previous record was four, which was set by several hurricanes.
The World Meteorological Organization will establish a committee of experts to investigate this record, as well as the others, it said.
Freddy developed off the coast of Australia, crossing the entire South Indian Ocean and traveling more than 8,000 km (4,970 mi) to make landfall in Madagascar and Mozambique in late February.
It then looped back and reached the coast of Mozambique again two weeks later before moving inland to Malawi.
“No other tropical cyclone observed in this part of the world has traveled such a path across the Indian Ocean in the past two decades,” the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in an article.
Only four storms have crossed the southern Indian Ocean from east to west, the last in 2000, it said.
Reporting by Nellie Peyton Edited by Alexander Winning and Angus MacSwan
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